- Category: HIV Treatment
- Published on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 00:00
- Written by Liz Highleyman
During disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, people with chronic medical conditions including HIV and viral hepatitis will be among those displaced and requiring emergency care. Government agencies offer a number of resources for people with these and other chronic conditions, healthcare providers, and others who provide emergency and disaster-related services.
[Editor's note: This resource list will be updated as further information becomes available.]
In addition to the need for rescue and emergency care in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, other concerns come into play when people are displaced for longer periods. People forced to evacuate may not have enough medication, for example, and may not be able to reach their usual providers or clinics.
The effects of disasters on people living with HIV/AIDS can be particularly severe, AIDS.gov director Miguel Gomez wrote in a blog post this past September in the wake of Hurricane Isaac:
- Natural disasters may affect things like air and water quality -- which can make a person living with HIV/AIDS susceptible to infections.
- People living with HIV may lose or run out of medications during a disaster, resulting in possible interruption in treatment.
- Access to care can be hampered due either to the destruction of healthcare facilities or people's relocation to other communities.
- Disasters can disrupt mail service, which can interfere with receiving benefits such as Social Security, Medicare.
The AIDS.gov website provides a section on emergency preparedness for people with HIV/AIDS including local and federal emergency resources -- and how to prepare now for the next emergency. [11/5/12]
Another concern is that providers caring for people in shelters and other emergency facilities may not be familiar with HIV or hepatitis treatment, including how to manage complex combination therapy, drug interactions, side effects, and opportunistic infection prophylaxis. One important consideration is how to safely stop antiretroviral drugs, if necessary, in order to prevent resistance. Because individual HIV drugs are not effective alone, it may be better to temporarily stop an entire regimen if some components are unavailable; another consideration is that some drugs last longer in the body than others.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offers Guidance for Non-HIV-Specialized Providers Caring for HIV-Infected Residents Displaced from Disaster Areas online at http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/DisasterDisplacedHIVCare.pdf.
- The Body: Weathering the Storm: Living With HIV During Times of Natural Disaster [11/5/12]
- AIDSinfo: HIV/AIDS Medical Practice Guidelines
- CDC: Health and Safety Concerns for All Disasters
- CDC: Fact Sheet: Prevent Illness After a Disaster
- CDC: Information for Disaster Evacuation Centers
- CDC: Zombie Preparedness (also applies to hurricanes, floods, and other emergencies)
- DHHS: Special Populations: Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
Cities affected by Hurricane Sandy are taking various measures to help people with HIV who need food, shelter, medication, methadone, or have been displaced.
ADAP: HIVandHepatitis.com has received unverified information that New York State's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) has relaxed its refill criteria to allow people to replace lost, damaged, or inaccessible medications. Patients and providers may call ADAP at 800-542-2437 for more information; the Albany-based ADAP office is fully staffed. [10/31/12]
Housing Works' has relocated its primary care, mental health, adult day care, and home health services from its East 9th Street and West Village facilities to 57 Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn. The Housing Works website (www.housingworks.org) provides updated information about services and transportation options. [10/31/12]
According to information provided by VOCAL-NY (www.vocal-ny.org), methadone maintenance programs that are still operational appear to be offering guest dosing and multi-day take-home doses. People who cannot access their regular program may go to the nearest operating site, which can be located on the OASAS website. [10/31/12]
10/30/12 [Updated 11/6/12]
M Gomez. Natural Disasters and People Living with HIV and AIDS. Blog.AIDS.gov. September 5, 2012.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Guidance for Non-HIV-Specialized Providers Caring for HIV-Infected Residents Displaced from Disaster Areas. Updated August 26, 2011.